As our country prepares to inaugurate a new leader, I’m reflecting upon the concept of leadership myself as part of my participation in the #EdublogsClub blogging challenge. As a 26 year veteran of education, I’ve worked for and with several different educational leaders through the years, and now I find myself in a role that does include some aspect of leadership as I support teachers and students to make an educational impact using technology. As I reflect on leadership, I hope that in my own leadership I exhibit the following positive traits I’ve observed in other leaders:
Positive in Attitude: The most effective leaders that I’ve observed are ones whose approach remains positive no matter what the task or challenge
Willing to be an Advocate: Someone who is willing to step forward to share the needs of students and educational systems with others who have the ability to influence a situation (parents, teachers, community members, legislators)
Innovative and Open-Minded: Willing to try new ideas, take (reasonable) risks and listen to others with ideas different from their own
Flexible and Always Working to Improve: I love the word “iteration,” and I hope that for everything I do, I am willing to consider how it could be done better, and that if it can be done better I work towards that improvement
Appreciating and Crediting Others: Recognizing “good” and crediting others for it, praising not only success but effort towards improvement
Ethical: Someone who doesn’t try to get around rules, regulations, laws and who considers the culture of the community of which they are a member
Right Priorities: Faith, personal health (so you can perform your duties), treating others with respect, work-life balance, keeping “what’s best for kids” in mind, but also considering a whole educational system that may include other kids, other buildings or even other districts in mind
Encouraging others to grow in leadership: I have a couple of notes on my motivation board that are relevant to this. One simply reads “No Heroes,” which means to me that I want to work so I develop independent people who don’t “need” me to be successful. The second note is the one I snapped a picture of for the top of this post: “Leadership is about creating other leaders.”
What characteristic of a great leader have I left off this list?
As part of my participation in the #EdublogsClub blogging challenge for educators, I’m writing this post in response to this week’s prompt to describe our classrooms, offices or other spaces in which we work. While I do have an office in our “central district office”, I also spend a lot of time in our 5 school buildings where the teachers and students I support spend their days. I spend time in other teachers’ classrooms, in the several computer labs in the schools, and even in the “teacher workrooms” and libraries of the buildings where I sometimes set up a temporary office from which to work! Much of my job does NOT rely on a specific physical space. For example, as I write the first draft of this post, I’m sitting in the teacher workroom of a school building 40 miles from my office at the central district office building. I had 3 short support meetings with teachers in this building earlier today and later on I’ll be meeting with another one about how our 1:1 iPad program can be even more effective for her students. During this “down time” between my formal meetings, I’ve set up shop on a table where teachers eat lunch in the room where they make copies. I’ve answered some emails, enrolled new students into software programs that I manage and I’ve spent a little time reviewing new posts on blogs I like to follow using Feedly, a reader to help manage my time. And now I’m taking a few minutes to write the first draft of this blog post!
But the photos I’m including are snapped from my desk. The top photo is a bulletin board that has turned in to a make-shift “motivation” board. The pictures of my family and co-workers show some of the important people in my life! But the quotes I have on there are even more helpful to see into who I am and what is important for me. Here are a few of them typed out in case you can’t read them all in the photo:
Pencil Labs????? (This was a motivation for why we needed to implement a 1:1 technology program that has been on my board for several years. We have had iPads for all students K-12 for several years now, but I still like the analogy. Would you tell teachers and students that they had to “go to the lab” each time they needed to use a pencil????)
You can’t get to outer space in a rowboat. (This one is just to remember that we need to pick the right tool for what we want kids to be able to learn and do. And it can be important for kids to learn to pick their own tool.
Write! Write poorly. Write poorly in public until you get better! (Just motivation and challenge to continue to try to update my blog without my hangup of perfection before publication.)
The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything. (I’d love perfect technology resources, perfect policies, perfect colleagues, perfect students. But we can do good things without a perfect situation, so we should!)
No Heroes! (I need to embrace growth in other people and take the position that it shows growth for our district when “I” become needed less for technology support.)
Leadership is about creating other leaders. (When I left the classroom and took my position as a technology integration specialist, I viewed myself more as a support person rather than a leader. And I still see the line as blurred between the two for my responsibilities. But when I read this thought somewhere, I knew that it was definitely part of my duty to our district and to the students in our district and to our profession. One person cannot make a big enough difference without spreading their influence!)
Good teaching may overcome a poor choice of technology, but technology will never save bad teaching. (So important. This supports the premise that “technology amplifies,” as well: when a teacher is provided good technology their skills will be amplified: teachers with good pedagogical foundation have a new creative tool in their tool belt, but teachers with poor pedagogy who don’t know how to manage kids or handle unexpected events technology can make that even more obvious. So if your goal is to support successful technology integration, it must also be to support the development of sound pedagogy in the teaching staff, as well. And if technology doesn’t make the impact you wish it would, you sometimes have to be willing to look more deeply into the reasons why.)
Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Do I focus on the obstacles of my job or on the opportunities? Do I make excuses or do I set a positive example for others? Do colleagues and students see me as being full of enthusiasm or full of something else? Do I brighten up my schools when I enter them or when I leave them? (I can’t recall where I came across these questions, but I hope my constant reflection upon them helps me stay a positive influence!)
Economically disadvantaged students, who often use the computer for remediation and basic skills, learn to do what the computer tells them, while more affluent students, who use it to learn programming and tool applications, learn to tell the computer what to do. (Neuman, D. (1991). Technology and equity. Available at http://www.ericdigests.org/1992-5/equity.htm and first read by me at Dangerously Irrelevant, a blog I really appreciate! I think this quote leads nicely to this one last “image” I’m including that is a thought I try to keep to the forefront when I work with teachers on how to integrate technology: I want them to create!! Not just to consume! And I sort of love that in this photo you see the green-painted dowel rods that I have for working with green-screen projects with kids!)
Talk to me: What do you think of the quotes on my motivation board? Do any resonate with you? Do any offend you? What quotes keep YOU going? 🙂
I’m excited to be participating a in weekly blog challenge project that starts here at the beginning of the new year: #Edublogsclub! Each week, members of the challenge receive a prompt and are challenged to write towards this prompt during the week and publish their blog post. If you want to try the challenge along with me, click HERE to learn more and sign up! This is my first weekly challenge where the prompt was to write a post that “tells your blog story.” So here goes:
This is not my first blog post, but I also don’t consider myself a successful blogger because I haven’t been consistent in my blogging practices in the past though I’ve tried several times to improve! I read other blogs through a feed reader (Feedly) so that I can just quickly skim the headlines. My favorite blogs are ones where new resources are shared as I used those to stay abreast of new ed tech that I then share out to the staff I support in our district. I also read posts suggested by members of my Twitter PLN. I’m choosing to participate in this challenge to try to establish blogging as more of a professional habit. I hope that by receiving and responding to the prompts, I’m challenged to add other blog posts that are relevant to what I’m learning and sharing with others as well.
My biggest fear as I get started is that my posts will be long and wordy. I know that other writing I do (emails, etc) can sometimes get too wordy and hard to follow, so I hope to keep things succinct and easy to read. I’m also worried that the time I spend blogging will not be worthwhile since hardly anyone reads my posts. In response to this fear, I hope to be able to focus on finding value in the process for professional growth and reflection of my own whether anyone reads or not!
Why? One simple word can make all the difference. Whether planning a learning experience for young people or adults, “Why?” is an important place to start. Today during the early Saturday morning educational Twitter chat I like to participate in, #SatChat, someone shared the following video, that made me start thinking about that little word: “why?” Take a few minutes to watch:
Watching the video and reflecting a few minutes on it, reminded me of a conversation I’d had a day or two ago with colleague where I shared some thoughts I had after watching a TED Talk given by Simon Sinek, the author of “Start with Why.” A few months back, I jotted a little “note-to-self” to look up “Sinek’s Golden Circle,” probably after reading about it on a blog or seeing it mentioned in a webinar. I can’t even recall today where my first exposure to it was, but I can tell you that it motivated me enough to write myself a reminder to learn more about it! I ran across my note the other day on one of the many Post-it notes that are on my desk, and I took a little break from work to start my research. I started by Googling the phrase and looking at some of the images that came up. I dug into the concept a bit more and came across the following video of Sinek giving a TED Talk on his ideas. The video is at the bottom of this post; it’s a little longer, but worth the watch. I started thinking of all the applications the idea of “starting with why” has in the field of education, and I began to believe it is an important reminder to us as educators. Children, young adults and especially adult learners we work with need to know the “WHY?” behind what we are teaching them.
Just as important as activating prior knowledge, explicitly pointing out the learning objectives for the lesson, or framing lessons within essential questions, the learners we work with need to know why what we have to say is important. And for us to convey “The Why” to our students, we have to be able to articulate “The Why” ourselves. So I challenge you today to add a step to your lesson planning or professional development planning that focuses on “The Why” of time you’ll spend with your learners. What is “The Why?” How will you communicate “The Why?” See how it changes your planning process and delivery of your lesson or professional development!